let’s rock’n’roll?!

Do you want some rock’n’roll in your life? Some spice in a little bit mundane-repetitive-boring covid-19-year? Do you want to experience all the ups and downs of being in the band without actually sacrificing your real, maybe comfortable life? Well, then, there is one way to do it – read the brilliant book Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – or wait for the screen adaptation of it this year. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

I have been hearing about this book for a year now, seeing all the book bloggers promoting it on social media. I read the description and knew I wanted to read it, but I kept postponing it till this month. I started reading it last week and finished the whole book in a few days. It was that good! I could definitely say that I haven’t read anything like that before.

Not trying to spoil it for anyone, but the format of this book is truly something unique for a fiction story. Reid creates a fictional rock band and tells their story in a non-fiction format. How cool, right? It is fiction, but written in a non-fictional way. The epic journey of the rock band is told by … drumroll …. musicians themselves! The whole book is one big-ass – sorry for my French – interview of everyone involved in the creation and management of the band’s success. There is no narrator. There is no standard start of the chapter: setting, mood, situation. We follow the unraveling of the story by simply listening to everyone’s perception of it. All the voices are heard equally, and the plot becomes so multifold because of that. Sometimes you don’t know who to believe in the story – and that’s exactly the point. In life, don’t we all have our own versions of the same event? Don’t we all have subjective experience of exactly the same thing? Isn’t our memory beautifully flawed? The book plays with our minds and our preferences. It is us who get to choose which side to take in a conflict and what character to sympathize with. We have the agency. Or at least that’s what the author skilfully wants us to believe.

In this book, you get everything: intense drama, reality TV show, the glamour of famous and rich, the harsh reality of being in a rock band, the hardworking process of songwriting and recording. It is all there. You will read this book in two days, but you will experience the lifetime of emotions.

Music is not my forte. Reading and writing are my passions, and I can say I am more or less knowledgeable in both. Music, though, is something I am pretty uneducated in. And this book opened the door to me to the world of good, really good music. It demystified the process of creating great music. Making music is really less about drugs and spontaneous inspiration, but much more about disciplined, laborious, patient, devoted, and damn hard work behind closed doors, with zero entertainment. Every art is only partly momentous: for the rest, and most, part it is intentional. And songwriting is very similar to book writing: you can be inspired by one moment, but it takes hours, days, and sometimes years to make it a reality.

Daisy Jones & The Six is pure rock’n’roll. If you want to be part of it – read the book. Hear the music.

(Un)sent letter

Dear Z,

It has been almost 10 years since we last met. I have been wanting to write a letter to you without ever sending it. I want to say something I was not able to say 10 years ago.

I forgive you. I forgive you for changing my life and me. I did not want this change, but it happened, and I could not stop it. You changed me as a person, as a woman, as a partner. Through your eyes, I saw myself for the first time and formed an opinion that was so hard to shatter later on. Sometimes I still see myself through your eyes, but it does not happen often anymore. I have thought so many days, I have cried so many nights, I went through it, through “us” millions of times to finally be free – from you, from us, from me with you. It’s time to say goodbye for the last time. I am ready to forgive you:

I forgive you for being my first man and giving me a false idea of what a man should be – what a woman should be.

I forgive you for being so wonderful and so cruel to me.

I forgive you for making me believe in cliched love and romantic relationships. I forgive you for turning me into a cynic.

I forgive you for letting you control my self-esteem, my confidence, self-love.

I forgive you for ruining my hopes and dreams when I was so young and hopeful.

I forgive you for showing me a fairy-tale and becoming a villain in the story.

I forgive you for letting me love you so much.

I forgive you for showing me what love is and what it is not.

I forgive you for loving me so much and betraying me.

I forgive you for everything.

I forgive.

Sent.

Game of Life

What are you living for? Do you have “THE purpose” in life? You know, the one that defines you and your existence on this planet?! Everyone is shouting how you are supposed to figure it out, have THE goal of your life, and confidently go towards it, step by step, brick by brick. Sometimes life seems like not about the actual living, but trying to follow the perfect model, formula, “rules” of living. And you do it day after day, and you are supposed to be “happy” and “fulfilled,” but all it does is leaving you feeling fake, an imposter. You are not living your life. You are playing the game called Life. It is all pretending.

Living a life: what does it actually feel like? Enjoying life without the “must-have” purpose or passion or far-reaching goal? What is life all about? What is the purpose of life if you do not have a purpose?

I have recently watched new Disney movie Clouds, and it affected me profoundly, struck pretty hard. It is a movie about a kid with cancer, terminal stage. He is questioning his purpose of little time he has left on this planet. The story touched me to the deepest mostly because of how it makes us question what we are all doing here. We can be so caught up with things to do, things to accomplish by certain age, things to prove to ourselves and others that we forget about the very question: so what? if you were given a terminal diagnosis, what would you do? what would you focus on? would you still care about money? appearance? status? promotion? Is that what life is all about? Just think about it. What would you actually do if you were given a few months to live?

Fuck, sometimes I ask myself: do you really need to know you are dying to realize it is time to start LIVING?! Why cannot we be born with this realization that life is painfully short, and that you have a definite amount of time, so stop wasting your time, energy, emotions, thoughts on bullshit. Things that will never matter had you less than a year to live.

Even though I am an atheist, when I come across a story, a book, or movie about someone who dies young, but leaves an invaluable legacy behind, I always feel this person was “sent” to our planet for a short period of time to teach us something greater than us. Angels, do you exist?

Apart from these “messengers,” I also believe in ART. I believe it can unite people. It can make us relate to each other. It makes us pause our game of life. Art breaks the rules of any set game.

That’s why I am so obsessed with books, and poetry, and movies, and music, and any artistic expression. It surpasses our ego, our mind, brain, any man-made entity. It is something we cannot touch or explain, but it is the biggest achievement of humanity.

Art is life. No rules, no games. Pure, raw, and painfully beautiful.

audiobooks…greenlight

Ok, I have to admit from the start that I have never been into audiobooks before. In fact, I used to be a book snob and look down on people who opted for audiobooks instead of “real” physical hardcopied with words printed on pages books. And I feel bad about it. This year I have completely changed my opinion about this format of reading/hearing books. Since I have an amazon account, I thought I might as well use my free 9 credits in the audiobook app. This exposed me to a whole new experience. Listening to the voice of the original author. Tuning in with what a writer says in his or her book. Driving a car and completely losing myself in the world of spoken thoughts, uttered truths. Now I truly believe some books are best to be listened to. Sometimes you need to hear the authors to hear their message. Sometimes listening is more powerful than reading.

I feel like some kind of a paid promoter, but I swear I am not! However, I am still going to encourage you to get your hands (or ears) on one audiobook. It is called Greenlights. The author, the narrator is Matthew McConaughey. The actor. Turns out Mr. McConaughey is also a brilliant writer and storyteller. Who would have thought?

I haven’t finished the audiobook yet, but I already have so much to say about it. It is so different, so refreshing, so…weirdly…optimistic. Matthew takes you on a rollercoaster journey, sharing the most personal, hilarious, enlightening, serious, absurd stories of his life. It is not a linear story of success. It is a messy, unpredictable, but ingrainedly beautiful memoir which makes famous people – actors – look like all of us. Ordinary people with ordinary problems, ordinary crises, ordinary moments, and ordinary feelings and thoughts.

I say this book is so refreshing to me because I mostly read highly dramatic books. Not to say that they are pessimistic, but they usually take things very seriously and deal with pretty hard topics. McConaughey’s book Greenlights touches upon many heavy issues, but he does it with such a light tone that it makes you take life less seriously. It makes you feel it is OK even if you are not always ok. After every red light, there is a long-awaited greenlight. All it takes is some hard work, perseverance, and undeniable and unstoppable belief in the good turn of events.

I have instantly fell in love with Matthew’s idea of breaking walls and roofs someone else (or you yourself) has set up for you or other people. This book is all about breaking limits, stereotypes, boundaries, and any other unhealthy restraints on the path towards success. This book is about living, not “over-living” or “under-living.” How liberating is it to live a life without overthinking? How mind-free would it be to accept a lesson from any life situation without overanalyzing? No, I am not saying Matthew is shallow. Not at all. On the opposite, he is very insightful and often existentialist, but he knows how to move on and enjoy the life the way it is at the very moment. He knows how to focus on greenlights. Forget about red lights.

Matthew McConaughey is not just reading a book. He is acting it. Acting his own self. And it is absolutely magnetic. It is a show of one person. It is a show of one life.

So, yes, sometimes you need to listen to a book to feel its power. Audiobooks – greenlight.

one name you need to know

I am going to tell you the name of one person, and I want you to remember it. Her name is Nikita Gill. If you google her or search her name on Instagram, she will pop up right away. Why, you ask?

Not because she is a famous influencer, living her life on display and recommending what clothes to buy, what drinks to taste, what brands to follow, or what music to listen to.

Not because she is pop star, being the lucky one to get through the hardships to the very stars. So high in the stars that the green planet looks so small.

Not because she is a politician who voices the opinions of those who are silenced, ignored, repressed, or oppressed.

Not because she is an owner of a cute puppy, making money of each cute post of the fluffy ball and spreading the promo codes on dog clothes or puppy treats.

No, she is famous because she understands people’s hearts, minds, and souls. She is popular because whatever she posts rings a bell for you. She is known not for her looks or clothes, but for her words and thoughts. Her beautiful words.

Nikita Gill is a famous poet and writer. Someone who will explain YOU to yourself. Someone who will touch a hidden string of your heart. Someone who will make you doubt everything you believed in before and force you to discover the truth within yourself. Someone who will become closer to you than your friend, sister, your mother.

One tiny piece of advice: when you come across her book of poems, please, just please read them to music. Put some inspirational music as the background and forget about the whole world. Let it just be you and her poems. No one and nothing else. Just you. Just a poem. Just the beauty in the world. And in your heart.

Remember. It is just one name you need to know. Her name is Nikita Gill.

Ode to Books

I have always loved books. Truly, sometimes books are more loyal than best friends. In many ways, they are.

Always available, always there for you. They understand you, and you try to understand them.

They make you laugh. You cry with them. They are next to you, ready to share an intimate moment any time of the day. They are ready to talk whenever you need it.

Books do not lie. They do not betray. They chose to tell the truth even though nobody asked them to.

Books are not jealous. And you are not jealous of them. They belong to everyone and no one.

Good books leave a mark on you. They become part of your heart. Great books become part of your family.

In so many ways, books are our loyal friends. For some, they become best friends.

So many times I thought this or that person would be my best friend forever. So many times, it did not happen.

Only books can make “forever and ever” truly possible.

A little thing that can change a lot.

This spring – right before all the craziness with Covid-19 – I have started meditating, for the first time in my life. Nobody encouraged me to do that. No one recommended an app or some YouTube channel to listen to. It happened spontaneously. It came to me naturally. Since last year I have started having anxiety. It probably had roots in my family’s financial problems and my own personal conflicts. Once, in April, I was taking a walk to clear my mind, calm down my nerves, and stop negative thoughts. And I couldn’t do it. I realized at that moment that I could not control my anxiety anymore. It controlled me. It became this grotesque monster, eating me from the inside. I felt hopeless. I understood I needed help. Absentmindedly, I clicked on the audio-book app and downloaded the first available mediation book.

Truly best choice I had made at that moment. The audio-book turned out to be the perfect meditation guide for beginners. For 21 days, it had daily 10-minute tracks which introduced basic things about meditation. I remember turning on the first track during my walk, and a soft, soothing female voice reassured me that everything would be okay. I would figure it out. Life was beautiful and problems were momentarily. And peace was still possible despite the anxiety. 10 minutes was enough for me to understand I wanted to do it every day. This absolute harmony of mind and body could be addictive. And I did not mind that positive addiction.

It did become a healthy habit for me. Rarely there is a day when I don’t meditate now. It has been 5 months since I started meditating, and my desire has been only increasing to make it part of my life – forever. Every day these 20 minutes (I now meditate for more than 10 mins) are the blissful moments of relaxation of the body and stillness of the mind. Every time it is different. Every day I learn something about myself. It is kind of cool to watch your own mind, notice when it drifts away, and bring it back to the present moment. You feel so powerful by letting it go.

I think one needs to grow up to meditate. To my shame, I used to have wrong assumptions about meditation and people who did it. I used to be friends with someone who would meditate for 3 hours a day, and I thought he was insane, spending so much time in the world of the mind, instead of living in reality. I thought it was crazy to meditate every day. I was really immature. I judged. I needed to grow up and discover meditation years later. It is funny how things turn out in our lives and how much we change.

If you struggle with anger issues, depression, anxious thoughts, pessimism, I do encourage you to try meditation. It made me feel so much better. I believe it will do the same to you. It can be a little thing that can change a lot in you and your life.

Keep calm and choose meditation.

Online Fall

The trees have stared changing their bright-green color, and a new semester has slowly crawled up to us. Here we are – September, 2020 – the year of Covid-19, quarantine, and online studying for everyone involved in the education. In Canada, most schools resumed in-person classes while the universities opted for online education for the whole semester. The decision about Winter semester has not been made yet, but I feel that Covid-related cases will soon go up and the second lock-down is very real in the near future.

Last week was the first time I used Zoom after two months of a summer break. I was nervous to meet up to 200 students online – I am teaching five different courses at two universities this semester. It is such a strange feeling to see my students as little boxes of moving faces instead of me standing in front of the audience and reading everyone’s body language, hearing the tone of their voices, and feeling the overall atmosphere of the room. Even though the first impression can be wrong, seeing someone in person gives you the much-needed information to establish a healthy relationship – compared to meeting a person behind the screen for the first time and trying to catch as much emotion as possible from a tiny square in which everyone is enclosed. It is such a fragmented sense of people and environment.

What I noticed right away this semester is that if before, the students would come to my class and rarely talk to each other to make friends as all of them were from different departments, and they met together in this classroom only for the required English course – if before it was like that, now, I guess, after months of no social contact and isolation, they are really hungry for communication, thirsty for any human contact. I noted this right away. They told me they were happy I chose Zoom (not asynchronous type of teaching) to meet regularly and discuss the material. They did not mind turning on their cameras. They wrote 100! messages in the chat (one of Zoom options) during our first class to greet each other and exchange their social media information. And you know, I am happy that my class can contribute, even a little bit, to the students’ feeling of belonging, sense of community, and healthy communication in these lonely times.

So, here we are – Fall semester. Cameras are on, volume up, zoom in and zoom out. It is new. It is weird. But at least we are all in this together. So, let’s get the best of this year and have maybe-the most memorable semester in our life. Zoom-zoom!

Behind the screen

We do live in the world where texting is slowly replacing calling or talking in person. Texting is easy, fast, convenient. Very often, you can hide your true emotions behind the texts as, no matter how good an emoji you choose, it cannot replace your face expression, your voice or intonation, your eyes, and body language. It simply cannot. There is limitation to texting. Lack of personal touch, emotional note.

Yesterday one of my best friends called me, crying, to say that her boyfriend broke up with her. They have dated for almost a year. Living in different cities, they managed to come see each other almost every two weeks. They spent all their vacation days with each other, and in summer they lived together for two months. They got to know the families and friends of each other. They had plans for future. They wanted to be together. Until yesterday.

Yesterday he broke up with my friend. And he did it over a text message. He wasn’t ready for commitment or anything serious. And while he explained to her in great detail what was not working for him, the text message left so many things unanswered. My friend was in the state of shock. She called me to ask for help, and we talked for hours. I felt so much pain for her. I cried for her loss. And while it was about her heartbreak, it also brought so many memories for me.

I’ve also had an experience of getting this kind of goodbye texts from boyfriends. These texts were from someone I spent years with. Someone I was ready to share my life with. Somebody we decided to move in together. Yet, despite that, their choice of break-up was sending a text message and being done with it. And while I could understand the reason for separation, I could never understand the way it was done – through a poor text message.

If you had the desire to spend weeks, months or years with one person. If you let this person into your life. If you shared good, bad, or usual days with him or her. If you kissed their lips, their face, their body. If you let them into your circle of friends and family. If you took them seriously. If you let them open their heart and trust you. If you said your first “I love you” to their face, have the courage to say goodbye while looking in their eyes. I know it is extremely hard to reject or hurt someone, and you might think text message is an easier way to let that person go, but it is easier for you. Not for them. You end up hurting them two times: first, by not reciprocating their feeling of love; and, second, by not respecting them enough to say it in person, to look in their eyes and say honestly: I do not love you anymore.

Don’t break up with your partner over a text message. You might have your valid reasons to end relationships, but end them in a humane way. Cell phones do not have a heart, but you do. Show your emotions to this person for the last time. Don’t hide behind the screen. Don’t.

(Boundaries)

All the recent self-help books talk about the importance of boundaries in our life. To maintain your own inner peace and harmony, you got to set boundaries, especially with the closest people in your environment. Mothers, fathers, siblings, partners, children, friends. Boundaries are needed when you feel unwanted influence, interference, or undesirable participation in your life.

Up till the age of 32, I have never set up healthy boundaries. I’ve let myself be affected by other opinions, judgement, advice, criticism, and influence. My flexibility or even dependence has played a bad joke on me. I’ve struggled to make my own decisions, always doubting myself and seeking advice from the closed ones. When my close people criticized me, I instantly agreed with them, without questioning for a second. I could not defend myself when I heard hurtful things I did not agree with. I did things for friends or family even though I was against them. I listened to everyone without hearing my own voice. I let people decide what kind of life I should have and what kind of person I should be.

Only now I have started realizing that and setting up my own boundaries. I am slowly teaching myself to listen to my heart first and then hear others opinions. I am learning to pause before agreeing right away. If my partner gives me the instant solution to my problem, I do not follow the advice immediately. I ask myself: Is this really what I would do without his advice? When my sibling pours negativity in the message, I answer with a simple positive statement without letting myself get drowned in the pool of pessimism. If my parents or his parents judge how I live or what I do, I stop myself from reacting to that and keep doing what I want to do. I am learning to say ‘No’ more often. I am learning to protect myself from unwanted guidance or emotional impact.

It is hard. Damn hard because people get hurt. They think that you distance yourself from them. That you don’t want to be close anymore or that their opinion means nothing to you. In these moments, you want to break down and let it go. Agree and follow. Isn’t it easier for everyone? For who? For you? Or for them? Exactly in these moments, the hardest times, you have to stand strong and resist the temptation of being the old you. You are your new self. You are setting the boundaries even if you think it is too late. Better late than never.